Parliament calls for investigation into Pravda rags

In Chapter Two of The Silent State I write about the decline of local journalism and the simultaneous rise in local council freesheets – or ‘pravda rags’ as I call them.

These propaganda sheets have largely come into existence since the 1990s with 88% not existing prior to this time. Concurrent with this subsidised propaganda, nearly one quarter (401 regional and local) independent newspapers have closed down.

This is disastrous for local democracy as it means there is no longer an independent journalist scrutinising the council. As I state in the book, transparency and direct, individual accountability is what keeps those in power honest so we must be very worried that many councils are now operating without either.

It seems MPs are listening and today The Times reported that the Culture, Media and Sport Committee believes council “freesheets” should be investigated by the Office of Fair Trading.

The committee criticised the freesheets, saying it was “unacceptable” that they often posed as local newspapers and acted “as a vehicle for political propaganda”.

Hear hear!

6 Responses to “Parliament calls for investigation into Pravda rags”

  1. American Fan says:

    Just keep on keeping on… once you pruned Parliament of say 150 MPs… the rest learnt to listen to you.

    Good work. Pleasant surprise to wake up to. Keep it up and America will have another Statue of Liberty thanks to you!

  2. caebrwyn says:

    Our local council, or rather the Chief Executive, threatened to withdraw advertising from the local paper, the Carmarthen Journal, if it printed ‘negative’ stories; I then heard that the newspaper bosses warned the editors to keep away from bad council news; are local papers so strapped for cash they have to bow to such pressure? Our council, I believe uniquely, has also amended it’s constitution to enable, through delegated power, the funding of officers in libel claims -potentially expensive and another threat to our small newspapers, any remaining investigative journalists and members of the taxpaying public.
    Carmarthenshire Council also runs it’s own pravda newspaper.

  3. heather says:

    Dear Caebrwyn,
    What exactly do you mean the council is funding officers in libel claims? Do you mean to instigate libel claims against newspapers?

  4. caebrwyn says:

    Yes, that is exactly what it means. The Chief Exec, Director of Resources and Head of Admin & Law have delegated power between them “To authorise the initiation of legal proceedings arising out of alleged defamatory statements made against Council officers”

    That would include newspapers.

    http://online.carmarthenshire.gov.uk/cccapps/documents/constitution/Part3-2.pdf

  5. I’ve suspected for a while now that our local “free” newspaper is little more than an propaganda rag of bias, spin and careful omission. How can I find out whether its a council freesheet?

  6. caebrwyn says:

    Our case may have prompted amendment. Council still cannot sue as a body but individuals can now be funded by taxpayer. It seems potentially huge cost risk to taxpayer as well as opening up possible abuse of Derbyshire rule. The Amendment was based on Comninos v Bedford BC which advises against such funding in the future unless the council is ‘most litigious’.
    I am aware of necessary balance between free speech and defamation but feel this is a particularly unnecessary move by our local authority who have less costly and threatening means at their disposal to deal with robust comments etc, through newspapers etc or even through negotiation/arbitration.
    Thanks for your time

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